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Curly Nikki

Exercise and Natural Hair: A Match Made in Heaven

By January 27th, 202126 Comments

Maria of To Be A Naturlista writes:

Exercise and Natural Hair: A Match Made in Heaven
I’m willing to bet the number one concern, or at least in the the top three, among the online black hair community is hair growth and retaining that length once gained. There are countless threads, blogs, vlogs and groups challenges dedicated to getting hair as long as possible. Women have admitted to swallowing vitamins, hormones, using hair growth oils, lotions, magic potions and shampoos made for horses all in the name of growing their hair. While certain vitamins do aid in the growth of hair, the point many miss is that vitamins serve as a supplement for what is lacking in one’s diet. In other words, poor nutrition and diet can affect the growth of our hair and while vitamins can step in temporarily, a more permanent fix is alteration to our diets that will result not only in healthier hair, but healthier people.

Just like a positive, permanent change in diet can result in a healthier body overall, exercise not only benefits our our shape but the growth of our hair as well. Regular cardio can mitigate conditions caused by hormone imbalance. Additionally it can lower and or eliminate one’s chances for diabetes. Hair loss is a symptom of diabetes. But be careful about what type of exercise you choose. All too often, when visiting my gym, I watch newbies, who are visually in need of exercise, go straight to the Nautlius room and proceed to concentrate on assisted weight lifting with all their might as a means to avoid running and other cardio. But consistent heavy weight lifting has been found to be a culprit of hair loss.

Additional forms of exercise noted for having a direct effect on promoting hair growth includes yoga. Yoga poses such as the downward dog and head stands allow blood to flow to the scalp. Hair follicles require a constant optimal blood flow to get nutrients and oxygens that stimulate hair growth. So even if you are sallowing tons of vitamins twice a day, if you have something restricting your blood flow such as high cholesterol, those pills may not even matter.

A 2008 study conducted by Columbia University found 31% of African American women sampled said they avoided exercise because it would interfere with their hair styles. While all the women acknowledged exercise is important, less than 25% actually met the CDC’s requirement for recommended exercise rates. It should then serve as no surprise that the American Obesity Association reports ”by race/ethnicity and sex the obesity prevalence was highest for non-Hispanic black women (39.0%) followed by non-Hispanic black men (32.1%).” Taking this into account, we need, more than anyone else in this country, to take a serious re-evalutation of what we are putting in our mouths and how we respect our body.

Exercise and Natural Hair: A Match Made in Heaven

What does that mean for naturals? Because our hair choice thrives off of moisture, our hair is no excuse for not exercising. The benefits of exercise overwhelmingly out weigh any cons an extra wash session or two per week may offer: exercise along with a healthy diet promotes weight loss, prevents heart disease and diabetes, make us feel better both physically and mentally plus, it helps our hair grow!



  • Anonymous says:

    i loved that his has been touched on i am always hearing i cant work out im gone sweat my perm out i have start working out since last summer (well at least faithfully) i did slack a little when i was going to school just because my schedule was so full but i am taking a aerobics conditioning class now and i have to say i love it i love that fact that i leave working out feeling great even though it gets hard at times i love the hard work is paying off i have a lot of family health issues, my mother side has heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes in it and my fathers family has cancer, diabetes, stroke, and my father had a bipass surgery 2 years ago after having a heart attack that was my wake up call i dont want to have all of these health problems when i get older and while they make it seem like these health problems are just higher in blacks i believe because we dont all eat healthy and we dont work out and we are under so much stress that is recipe for disaster changes need to be made

  • The Chocolate Loveliness That Is Fraña says:

    I am an overweight sista with natural hair. I am rocking a T.W.A. right now so I'm loving the simplicity in my hair routine.
    My excuse was having no time to workout because of my kids and I live in the AZ heat. Well my kids go to sleep around a certain time giving me time to workout once they are sleep. It's cooling off outside so I can actually go for a jog before everyone wakes up or even after they go to bed. 🙂
    My hair??? Shoot, best believe I will be co-washing or shampooing (NO SLS!), conditioning, basically wash-n-going more often so I can get this unnecessary weight off once and for all!
    This article was inspirational, thank you for sharing!

  • Regina d. says:

    I can say that I work out more now for other reason than being natural but it does help that I can do my own hair once it needs to be done due to excessive washing. However, after I've spent 4 hours twisting and an hour washing I'm not too anxious to go to the gym and sweat it out to soon. I've taken to yoga for other reasons that hair, but it def doesn't getting me sweating as hard as P90X. Just a thought on if it really is easier to go to the gym being natural.

  • Amaspiritartist says:

    Yes, I am interested as well in how all the natural hair sisters manage to not be affected by sweat and moisture.

    Yes I understand that exercising is too important to give up. I have no intention of giving it up…but I also know that my hair changes to straight Afro at the roots when I sweat….although the rest may be twisted or twisted out…
    You all may have suggestions that I haven't thought about…

  • Yvette says:

    I am so glad you posted this! I've been dying to ask the question of how to maintain twists/twists outs/ and other protective styles after the workout session? Would someone suggest rinsing the hair, or leaving it alone, etc? Any thoughts? Thank you in advance.

  • Bobbie says:

    Great Post. One of the main reason I decided to go natural because I would go the gym often and had to worry about my hair sweating it out.
    When my hair was relax to only solution was to put a hot curly iron to it the day after a workout.
    Now my hair is natural I dont have to decided whether I want a healthy body or hair. I have can both.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • beadgyrl says:

    I am sorry you all for this second post, but Candace above I missed your comment before. I agree with you 110%. I am sorry, but I am a huge advocate for weight lifting. I lift at least twice a week, three times a week when I am feeling fiesty. Weights (incinerate) calories and fat. Ladies please don't rule out weights. I am not afraid of hair loss, and have experienced NONE. Cardio is great, but not so effective without weights. It can be done also without bulking up like a man. 🙂 Thanks Candace!

  • beadgyrl says:

    luvmylocs above, you said a mouthful. This is a great post, and much appreciated. This needed to be said, and is so true. Stay healthy and fit out there! 🙂

  • Candace says:

    I think this is a great post, but the following statement is misleading "But consistent heavy weight lifting has been found to be a culprit of hair loss." Lifting weights has been found to aid in weight loss. The calorie burn lasts for hours after the work out is done. and with women it doesn't mean you'll bulk up like a pro-athlete. Don't be scared to add those resistance exercises to your cardio.

  • Anonymous says:

    I think another point to make is that a lot of women fear that if u exercise too much(especially lift weights)u wud look to muscular or mannish which i disagree with because this only happens if u take supplements to make gain muscle mass or take steroids.But i dont think there is anything wrong with having a little muscle definition.And yeah i think black women should really get out of tht mentality that you shouldnt work out if u just got a relaxer or watever cause its detrimental to our health seeing tht our race has the highest figure for obesity and tht part about black women not wanting to exercise cause it might interfere with their hair is pure BS and it is extremely embarrassing(sorry for the long rant).

  • Anonymous says:

    Anonymous #1, you do make some valid points. The hours spent in the salon could be spent in the gym.

    One point to consider is that some people may have a fear of working out. I am not naturally a bold person (I morphed into one), and I remember walking into a gym the first time as if I owned it. I didn't go with any friends for back up. If I didn't have that confidence I probably would not have joined.

    Since then I've been in several gyms never once feeling intimidated. I think if people get over their fears that might also be a positive move in the right direction.

  • Anonymous says:

    When I was relaxed I would work out 2 to 3 times a week, and more during the summer. I really didn't care about how my hair looked as I was content to pin it up until wash days (Saturdays). The one plus I can say is that since I wash my hair for myself, I don't have to spend 3 hours at the salon after sweating it out at the gym.

  • Anonymous says:

    Oh, thank God someone brought this up. I swear I thought I was the only natural black woman that worked out on a normal basis. I have been asking around to see how other naturals maintain there hair and work out, but it seems as if no one could answer my question.

    There is no way that I could give up working out for my hair. On the days that I don't work out, I notice a definte difference in my energy level and in my mood. Both my energy levels and moods are down in the days that I don't work out.

    I work out about 6 days a week, and wash my hair about 3-4 times a week. My hair HATES sweat. Normally I wear my hair up in a bun. I wash it (or co-wash it depending on the day) put it up in a bun and there it stays until I wash it agian. I would love to wear those cute twist out styles more often, but I have come to realize that my physical health is more important than a glamorus hair style. Besides I love to eat too much to give up exercising. 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    OMG! this article was heaven sent. I was JUST about to post a topic asking how people deal with their hair while working out since I just started working out again. I'm glad i don't have to worry about it since its in its natural state. Thank god i'm natural! 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    I own a fitness business and many of my Black potential clients would literally ask "but what about my hair" when I gave then their exercise recommendations. I am seeing an increase however of Black women in my client base- many are natural too. I would like to know what study reported hair loss with heavy weightlifting. I lift heavy weights often {my clients do as well} for the metabolism boosting effect and have no problems. With hair loss. I have never seen any research our anecdotal evidence supporting this claim. Of course I have seen in with female bodybuilders who used steroids but I believe the steroids were the cause of hair loss- not weight training.

  • Anonymous says:

    This post is so needed, it is incredibly sad that Black women choose to sacrifice their overall health (something that not only affects them but their children and loved ones as well) for the sake of straight hair. When I was relaxed I never cared about "sweating my hair out," in high school I was on the basketball and tennis team and through college went to the gym and played intramural basketball on a regular basis. Once I went natural I decided to step up my game (I had gained a few pounds in college!) and employed my plan to "get it tight, get it right for graduation 2009" exercise regimen. I worked out three days a week for an hour and a half and changed my diet for five months and lost 30 pounds. This inspired me to be more consistent with my exercise regimen and now that I've been natural for almost two years and am in my second year of grad school I am healthier than ever. I've lost 10 more pounds and have maintaned a healthy weight of 143 at 5'8" for over a year simply by staying active and eating right! My weekly workout regimen is tae kwon do for two hours three days a week, boxing or kickboxing (depending on the week) for an hour one night a week, and african or tap dance (depending on the week) for an hour one night a week. I should be broke from all of this, but there are so many free resources in NYC if you know where to look! I also think people need to realize that you don't need to go to a gym to stay healthy, just participate in activities you enjoy…I never step foot in a gym and am in the best shape of my life.

  • Anonymous says:

    Wonderful post!! Sooooo glad to see this was posted and all the positive comments about exercising. So sad but so true that black women let their hair dictate their life especially getting healthy!! If you do not have good health what kind of life do you have? I have worked out consistently for 10 yrs and at 40 (bout to be 41) I feel better than ever! I usually workout at least 3-4 days week if I am not traveling for work and 5-6 days when I don't travel. I do a variety of things….spin class, yoga, lift weights, kickboxing and swimming!!! And it was crazy working out with relaxed hair….one of the reasons I went natural!! Like others have said, I do my own hair and work it around my exercise regimen. I even take my lil dog for 20 min morning walks EVERYDAY! I hope one day to make health & fitness a liftime career to help our community…it is really sad with the young kids being overweight and at risk for diabetes, heart disease, etc. They have to realize that looking good isn't just about how you look on the outside…in starts on the inside and exudes outward…indicators are hair, skin, overall appearance. The education must start with the family/parents who many do not know how to eat healthy or exercise properly.

    Many wait until the DR's orders them to exercise which is sad…you should want to be healthy to live as long as you can to enjoy your family and friends….again SOOOO GLAD this post was made.

    Much success to all who have an exercise regimen and for those looking to do so, get up and MOVE!!

  • Leo the Yardie Chick says:

    I remember how my then-relaxed hair would be soaked from root to tips after a hard hour's martial arts training. I hated having to deal with the hair, but I loved how much better I felt from the exercise. School interrupted my classes, but I'm determined to re-enroll as soon as I graduate and get a job (or two).

    What's the sense of having an 'on point' hairstyle with a 'sweet lawd!' body? *shakes head*

  • Anonymous says:

    Ditto with BKcurly! I go to the gym at least five days a week and when I was relaxed it was taking a toil on my hair. I was using way too much heat (the blow dryer then the flat iron) on basically a daily basis. So I decided that my overall health was more important then having straight hair which was being damaged anyway. When I decided to go natural, I did tons of research on embracing my natural hair and finding ways to take care of it. I had a coworker tell me once and I quote, "I would rather be fat then sweat out my hair." I told her, you gotta be kidding me but she was so sincere. I thought that was just plain crazy but I am still working on her :). Thanks for the post! I am happy with my progress and I am definitely not going back!

  • Mystique says:

    great post!

  • BKcurly says:

    OMG! This is such a good post! Exercising was the main reason I decided to go natural. I was sick of skipping days at the gym to preserve my straight hairstyle. Now, I can wash my hair whenever I need to and do it myself AND go to the gym as often as I want/need to. Now I am happy with both my hair AND my body! Wooo Hooo

  • Lynnieluve says:

    Great post!!! This was one of the many reasons I went natural. I was tired of my hair dictating my life!! I have been working out 3-4 days a week for almost a year and a half and I dont plan on changing that!!

  • luvmylocs says:

    i'm a fitness instructor and i've heard women say their whole life revolves around hair and hair appointments. sad…the benefits of a healthy body far outweigh any hair style.

  • Shakirah says:

    great post! let's get and stay healthy ladies!!!

  • Anonymous says:

    ''31% of black women won't exercise because it interferes with their hair.''

    As a black woman I find this statistic embarrassing.

  • Anonymous says:

    EXCELLENT POST! As a group, we DO need to get moving. I, for one, am tired of seeing so many of us with "fly" hair (natural or not) and humongous butts, high diabetic and heart disease rates. Then, some of us complain about our men not finding us attractive. ??!!!????

    Afterall, do we want to keep living or do we want to have a fly hairstyle for our funeral?? LOL

    It is so sad that it is becoming unsual for the public to equate a normal sized black woman with anything other than an aberration. Even some of US think that a woman of NORMAL weight and body mass index is actually anorexic. SAD!

    Then you have women like the comedienne, Monique, who write hateful books about thin women. Just because she is a moose ( even a happy one), it doesn't give her the right to hate on others who chose a different/healthier lifestyle.

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